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World Cup 2019: What the heck has happened to David Warner?

From pundits to journalists, the question is on everybody's mind. Sports website Roar put it the bluntest: What the heck has happened to David Warner?

Australia’s David Warner walks after losing his wicket.
Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers

The odds were fair that David Warner would remain the topic of national discussion after returning to international cricket. But few would have expected his batsmanship to be under the scanner. From pundits to journalists, the question is on everybody’s mind. Sports website Roar put it the bluntest: What the heck has happened to David Warner?

Warner’s career strike rate in ODIs is 95. His strike rate in the 50 one-dayers before the 12 month-ban was 106. At the World Cup, it has been 71.84. In the 352-run chase against India, Warner played out 50 dots in scoring an 84-ball 56, including 14 in a row.

Used wickets, straight lines, shortish length and balls swinging in the 5-10 overs instead of from the get-go have been mulled as reasons. Indians chipped in with their two cents. Virat Kohli “felt like they were a bit hesitant in going for the boundary option” while Sachin Tendulkar had “never seen Warner kept quiet for such a long time. His strike rate today is unheard of.”

Compatriots, of course, have been milder. “It hasn’t been a plan, a team plan or an individual plan for David,” said captain Aaron Finch after the defeat to India. “I think they bowled really well early.”

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“It might be the conditions, it might be the ball,” Glenn Maxwell said, before adding: “Davey obviously didn’t have his best day but he was able to bat a little (bit) of time rather than throwing it away early.” That bit is key. Firstly, it’s only three matches. Plus Warner is currently the second-highest scorer for Australia with an average of 74. And what is worse than Warner scoring slow runs? Warner scoring no runs.

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Cricket to get its own Roof

An artist’s impression of the mesh, which is held up by a hot-air balloon. (Express)

Google it

How do you solve a rain problem?

That’s right, you ‘google it.’ That’s exactly what the bigwigs at the ECB have done, although they’ve taken it to quite another level.

The story goes that ECB CEO Tom Harrison met with Google X — the company’s experimental division — to figure out how best to save cricket matches from getting washed out, according to the Times London. So far, the World Cup has suffered three matches being abandoned due to rain.

Cloud seeding is one option, which the Chinese government turned to at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. But the ECB had its own idea of having a fine mesh floating over each ground with the help of a hot air balloon. Naturally, the idea was blown away when the high speed wind was considered.

At the moment, the results of the meeting remains a secret — so there are some things google won’t tell you. For now though, google can tell you that more rain is expected.

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Boycott frowns on Aus eating up overs

More on slow runs. Geoffrey Boycott is getting restless about scoring rates. That’s a rib-tickler on its own, but the lament against wasted balls and advice to get a move-on on the scoring has gone to Australia. “Australia need to realise Maxwell is their ace batsman, like Jos Buttler is for England. He is a game-changer, a match-winner. You do not want him watching guys half as good as him eat up overs so the run rate becomes silly and he has to play risky shots,”: Boycott wrote for The Sydney Morning Herald. The man who faced ODI cricket’s first ball, had in his heyday stiched up a 129-run leisurely partnership from 38 overs with Mike Brearley in a World Cup final. Clive Lloyd’s dropped catch of Boycott was chucklingly considered the least costliest spill as England whiled away the innings. 52 years since Boycott was dropped for a painful, yawning crawl at the Headingley Test against India, accused of ‘slow’ batting, he is prescribing Mad Max’s promotion up the order, to cure silly run rates.

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A classic rerun

The last time Australia and Pakistan squared off in a World Cup, it ended up being a match remembered not for the result, nor the scores. It is remembered for the fiery rivalry between Wahab Riaz and Shane Watson. The pace, the anger, the aggression, the agony, the bouncer and the challenge from Riaz, the evasive action, the nervous smile, and the few connected shots from Watson and his eventual survival made for one of the most entertaining spells the sport has known. Even the ICC, on its website has put up a video of that Riaz spell, titled ‘CWC Greatest Moments: Wahab Riaz puts a spell on Shane Watson,’ in their preview of the upcoming match on Thursday. Curiously, the ICC did fine both players half their match fees for that precise spell back in 2015.

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Weight and Watch

These aren’t the best of times for the World Cup players wearing XL or XXL jersey. First Pakistan skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed, XL, was reminded of his flabby frame by motor-mouth television pundit Shoaib Akhtar, who blamed him for the team’s first game loss against West Indies. And now, Afghanistan wicket-keeper, Mohammad Shahzad, XXL, has been sent home for being unfit. Not one to mince words, Akhtar, painted a not too flattering picture of the Pakistan skipper in his game review. Spreading his hands as far as his broad shoulders, he said, “Itna bada toh uska paet hai (His paunch is this big).” Then getting the hands slightly closer he added, “Aur itna bada uska sar hai (And his head is this big).” Meanwhile, Shahzad, who in the past has been banned by ICC for taking a banned weight-loss diuretic, was heartbroken when he was informed that his knee can no longer take his weight. As is the case with most body-shaming comments, this was followed by hurt and bitter exchanges. Akhtar’s comments didn’t go well with Sarfraz’s backers. Throwing his weight behind his fellow Karachi player, Moin questioned Akhtar’s fitness record. “Shoaib agar fit hota to 400 ya 500 out karta, jo insan khud kabhi fit nahi raha woh Sarfaraz ke baare mein aisa ghattiya remarks kaise de sakta hai (If Shoaib was that fit, he would have taken 400 to 500 wickets. How can a person who has never been fit say such things about Sarfaraz),” he said.

Pakistan skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed’s physique has earned criticism. (File)

Now, if you troll Akhtar, expect a quick retort. And it got personal. The out-spoken speedster said that since he had played under captains like Moin, he underachieved. He wasn’t finished. He said, had he got a captain like Imran Khan, his international wicket haul would have been much bigger. Watch this space for more sparring from Pakistan. In Afghanistan, Shahzad played the victim card, saying how his board has conspired against him. He even recorded an emotional message on social media. He said he might quit cricket for good. He even shed tears. Though, there was no word on shedding weight.

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Ind-Pak clownery begins, noone’s amused

The round-robin match between India and Pakistan might be a few days away but the battle between the studio warriors is well underway. In response to the Indian broadcaster’s ad campaign, a Pakistani channel released a spoof that sent Twitter into a meltdown. The ad which is 33 seconds long, has a character impersonating Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, the Indian Air Force pilot who was captured by Pakistan after his plane was downed by a Pakistani jet in February when tensions between the two countries had soared.

In response to the Indian broadcaster’s ad campaign, a Pakistani channel released a spoof which has a character impersonating Wing Commander Abhinandan.

The actor sports Abhinandan’s signature handlebar moustache and is dressed in Indian cricket team’s jersey instead of an airman’s suit. Much like the clip of Abhinandan released by the Pakistani authorities, the character in the ad is also seen sipping a cup of tea while he is being ‘interrogated.’ A voice in the background is heard questioning him about the toss and India’s playing XI. The impersonator, who puts on a South Indian accent, replies, “I am not supposed to tell you that”; similar to the way the Abhindandan had reportedly responded when Pakistani officers had questioned him about his mission while he was in custody. The interrogator then is heard asking him, “How is the tea?”, to which the character replies, “Tea is really fantastic” – an exchange similar to the actual events. Eventually, when Abhinandan is asked to leave, he is pulled back by the interrogator who says, “Ek second ruko! Cup kahan leke ja raho ho?”

Star Sports meanwhile has a mishmash of Father’s Day, mouka mouka and its trademark unfunny humour in its Ind-Pak preview ad. Both broadcasters have been criticised for the mediocre ads. And while the recent matches between the two countries have been played in relatively good spirits, the studios are again dragging down the discourse.

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Sri Lanka’s best friend

For the second time in a row, Sri Lanka’s match has been cancelled due to rain and the team has recieved a point for its troubles — or the lack of it. But the rain might have come to Sri Lanka’s aid. Consider that the team, which has been struggling for form, had a bad start against New Zealand, then survived in their 34-run win against Afghanistan. Against Pakistan, they were coming up against a side that beat hosts England in style. That match was cancelled. On Wednesday they were to play Bangladesh, a minnow making strides to beat the big names in the sport (they’ve beaten South Africa). Against the struggling islanders, the Bangladeshis would have been licking their lips, but then the skies opened up in Bristol and Sri Lanka walked away with a point. As it stands in the leaderboard, Sri Lanka is in fifth, ahead of Pakistan and Bangladesh. It’s a gift from the rain Gods.

Follow the Cricket World Cup 2019 live updates and real-time analysis on IndianExpress.com. Check the ICC Cricket World 2019 Schedule, Teams and Points Table.